Friday, December 14, 2012

determamfidd's It Takes a Village

Growing up is an adventure unto itself, especially when you're a dragon living among ponies.

[Slice-of-Life] • 147,700 words
Spike only wants things to stay the same. Time, however, has other ideas. He's going to need a lot of help...

Hit the break for a chat with determamfidd, and links to It Takes a Village out on the ponynet. Don't forget there are nice clean ebook copies waiting for you at the Downloads page!

Where do you live?

Queensland, Australia. It's coming up to summer right now, and ye gods is it hot.

What kind of work do you do? (i.e. are you a student, do you have a career/day job, etc)

I'm a schoolteacher, actually! Hence the ridiculous vocabulary, and the urge to correct things in pens of two colours.

How did you discover My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? When did you realize you were a fan of the show?

I was mucking about on the internet late one night, and a friend of mine had posted a picture of pretty cartoon ponies with a caption on her journal. I laughed. Then I went to discover a bit more... and that late night turned into a very early morning because just one more episode, just one more...

Do you have a favorite episode?

Oh, gods, I have no idea. I love all of them!

Who is your favorite character based purely on the canon of the show itself? Would your answer change if you considered the fandom in its entirety (i.e. art, fanfiction, memes, etc)?

Twilight Sparkle. I like that we share so many qualities: nerdiness, a fanatical love of books, learning and history, meticulous organisation, microscopic attention to fine detail, a certain stark-staring brain-bending insanity... Fandom hasn't really done anything other than turn like into obsessive adoration.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

I mashed a few words together! I like that sort of thing. It's a cheap way to feel clever :)

Have you written in other capacities (other fandoms, professionally, etc)? When did you first start writing?

Never professionally, but yup, I have been a writer in a few other fandoms. I started out writing for X-Men, but I quickly ditched those stories because ohgawd the shame, they were terrible. After I got a bit older, I ventured into fandom again, this time writing stories for Doctor Who. I still want to write some more DW someday. I love him – all of him. I've written a Sherlock story, a few Megamind one-shots, a very long How To Train Your Dragon two-part saga, and some Avengers. Bruce Banner is my spirit guide.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Read. And read. And read. I am running out of house in which to keep my books.

But they keep releasing them! It's not fair! How am I to resist? Their flirtatious little covers, their sexy spines, the elusive scent of their pages... hummina.

Who is your favorite author (published or fanfiction)? Do you have a favorite story or novel?

That's an impossible question. Arrgh. I've always loved sci-fi and fantasy, however. I can list some favourite authors: China Mieville, Jasper Fforde, Terry Pratchett (VIMES FOREVER), JRR Tolkien (I re-read everything every year), George RR Martin (Tyrion is my favourite - which probably means he's about to die because Martin kills everything you love), Douglas Adams, Ben Elton, Anne McCaffrey, Spike Milligan, Robin Hobb, Guy Gavriel Kay and so, so many more. I love comics as well, and have collected for a few decades now. Favourite titles are Incredible Hulk, Usagi Yojimbo, X-Men, Avengers, and Hellboy.

Stephen King believes that every author has an "ideal reader" - the one person who they write for, the one person whose reactions they care about. Do you have one, and if so, who is it?

Not really. I just sort of write. I try to stay within the general spirit of the source material, even if I get a bit darker or more complicated. Hopefully it helps the fans of that source material connect with my stuff.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers, or writers who are struggling with their own stories?

Get a good, interesting and strong concept, one that can provide the overarching theme for your story. If every scene in the story cannot be in some way tied to that concept, you're getting a bit far afield and it will lack coherence. For example, the theme for It Takes a Village was ‘Spike is growing up. How does that affect everything?' The whole story and plot was aimed at exploring that concept.

Also, if you're stuck, keep pushing through it. Write something – anything – down, get past those two or three pages that are giving you grief, and move on. You can come back and edit them afterwards – just get to a point where the words flow again.

What is your typical writing process? (Do you work through multiple drafts, do you have any prereaders/editors, etc?)

I kind of just sit down and write. Sometimes I have an idea of where the scene is headed, but not always. I've always got a general idea of the story arc in my head, but the characters often react to the situations in ways that surprise me. I try to see the scene and describe it, and I always, always try to hear my dialogue in that particular character's voice. I don't really do drafts or a huge amount of story-planning: I prefer to let it grow more organically.I don't always have a pre-reader, but occasionally a lovely reader may offer to look over the next chapter for me and tell me where they think it seems weak.

What inspired you to write It Takes a Village?

I have a ridiculously soft spot for the underdog and the outsider. And Spike, that little infant dragon who is loved but still excluded, bossed about, and generally seen as a bit of a joke or nuisance (even though he's very brave and loyal and a child-worker, let's not forget) tugged at my heartstrings. Poor little guy. I now know that there are approximately one gigajillion stories about Spike growing up, but I hadn't read them then. I wanted to read a story about what could happen, and how his differences could be both blessing and curse. Also, dragons. Are. Awesome.

Did you run into any tough spots or challenges when writing It Takes a Village?

A couple. There were some hairy moments in Chapter 16 when writing the riot. I'd already built to the climax in the big fight on Horsefall Mountain, and so this second, smaller climax felt somewhat... less. I tried to inject a bit more into it, but I'd spent a lot more time on building the conflict between Spike and Razorfang, and so the conflict between Spike and the scared/prejudiced ponies sort of took a backseat, which lessened the stakes of the riot. If I were ever to rewrite it, that's probably what I'd change.

Also, writing Zecora is hard. That line, "That doesn't rhyme"? Came about because I was about to cry with frustration.

When you set out to write It Takes a Village, did you have any specific messages or themes in mind?

Definitely. I set to work with the initial concept, as I said above, but I selected a few themes to help explore this. There's loyalty, family, belonging, prejudice and bigotry, acceptance despite all difference, growing up, finding your place, fighting for acceptance, and hope. I think that's most of them.

Where can readers drop you a line?

Get in touch through any old site! I'm on FIMFiction, Deviantart,, and I've just joined the Pony Fiction Archive and the Archive of Our Own. So. Many. Formatting. Styles.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Because ponies.

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